The federal court system hears certain types of cases both of a criminal law and a civil law nature. The bulk of the cases heard in federal courts are civil in nature, and the Constitution does define what type of cases can be heard in such courts. For example, any case that is dealing with Constitutional law can be heard in a federal court. Other types of cases that can be heard in federal courts include matters that involve one or more federal laws, some matters that involve parties from multiple states and legal matters that exist between United States citizens and citizens of foreign nations.
Typically, cases that will be heard in a federal court begin at the district court level. The court system at the federal level is divided into districts. Every state has at least one district court within it's borders. Larger states have multiple district courts so that everyone in the nation has some type of access to the federal court system.
If one or more parties involved in a federal court case do not agree with the district court decision, the matter can be appealed. The next level in the system are the circuit courts. Each state does not have a circuit court as there are only currently 13 appellate federal courts. After the circuit court, the next step is the Supreme Court.
There are other federal courts that are not part of the above structure and are deemed special courts. These include courts that hear matters of bankruptcy, taxes and veteran's benefits.
Understanding what court is appropriate for a legal matter, and how to appeal a matter to the right court, is critical to an increased chance at success. Working with a law firm that understands these court systems is one what to boost that chance at success.
Source: Dummies.com, "Getting to Know the U.S. Court Systems," accessed March 18, 2016